The natural qualities of Anatolia, its cuisine and curing features also appear as certain characteristics of the Turkish cuisine. One of the most important elements of culture is the cuisine. Turkish cuisine is a rich one. Turkish people have always regarded health and food highly and have been able to combine their personal tastes pertaining to the cuisine with art. Moreover, spreading across much different geography, they have interacted with various cultures and built huge states and civilisations. Thus, they have been able to skilfully display the unique examples of such a rich cuisine also with the impact of highly distinct cultures.
Turkish people have made the cuisine they brought from Middle Asia reach its peak during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Of course, the Aegean region and particularly İzmir that dates back 8 thousand years in history and that reflect the lovely face of nature have had a cuisine that has been transferred and diversified from generation to generation. Therefore, the “Aegean Cuisine”, with its entirely unique characteristics, has acquired a prominent place among different cuisines.
The first thing that comes to mind when speaking about the Aegean cuisine is of course the olive and
the olive oil. Just as Karadeniz springs to mind when talking about “anchovies” and Southeastern Anatolia with “kebab”, “olive oil” creates the same effect for the Aegean region. Thus has been the effect for 500 years. The antique olive oil mill that was revealed in the excavations in Klazomenai, which Heredot mentions among the “Twelve Ionian cities” and which is to the northern coast of the Urla-Çeşme peninsula is the biggest proof of this fact. We also learn from the labels placed on the amphoras in the submerged shorelines of the dark blue waters of the Aegean Sea that the trade of olive oil had been taking place among all the trade colonies from the Aegean to the Mediterranean.
Olive oil forms the essence of the Aegean cuisine. Meat dishes, vegetables, rice, stuffed food are all cooked solely with olive oil.
People from the Aegean region sprinkle olive oil with black pepper, salt and thyme and eat it by dipping toasted or freshly-made bread inside it, accompanied by the sharp Bryndza cheese. If olive oil is the first actor of the Aegean cuisine, then the second ones are the thousands of different plants that live in this region. In fact, if we were to define the Aegean cuisine as a green one, we wouldn’t be wrong.
Hibiscus, climber, nettle, “cibez”, turnip plant, acanthus, succory, blessed thistle, corn rose, patience dock, chickweed, plantago, “helvacık”, chicory, glasswort, asparagus, “arapsaçı”, “marata”, “tarla çakısı”, “tarla çivisi” and watercress… The list goes on and on.
These plants are cooked as little as possible and thus preserve their colours and the miracles they get from nature till they get to your table. One can get deliciously rich tastes when lemon juice and golden-coloured olive oil is added to them.
In addition to the frequent use of plants in cooking, such vegetables as cowpea, leek and aubergines are also used more, compared to other regions. Keşkek, which is a type of rice, “börek” with aubergines, pastries with lentils, “katmer”, various types of stew and “gözleme” are among the lists of food for special occasions. There are so many different dishes that come from Creta to İzmir and go from Anatolia to Creta and to the shores across the Aegean Sea that one cannot list them here. Each culture around the Aegean region, such as the Greek, Greek people of Turkish nationality, the Bosnian, the Albanian, Jewish people and the Levantines have also created a common cuisine with the common cultural values that we share. The “boyoz”, which is a pastry type made by Jewish people has become associated with İzmir and the liver of Prishtina has become the main side-dish eaten at the sunset. Thus, the cuisines of both sides of the Aegean Sea have combined so much that they are inseperable.
Our hope is that you try these unique tastes fresh and in their own nature.